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[rec] trilogy

(Due to me reviewing all three films, spoilers are contained ahead though I’ve tried to keep them to a minimal)

I first saw [rec] in what would be the ideal horror movie atmosphere: it was Halloween, the room was pitch dark and it was midnight with me and a few friends, most of us still slightly buzzed and reeling from the festivities earlier. In a world rife with zombie movies of every type and the sudden pop culture explosion that’s occurred in recent years, it was refreshing to see a movie that did zombies right. The film starts off simply enough with a camera man and a reporter in the Spain equivalent of Insomniacs. They’re assigned to follow a detail of night shift firemen out on patrol on what is thought to be a routine domestic violence/disturbance call which of course doesn’t go as planned.


The entire film is shown through the recordings of the cameraman and the camcorder helmets the swat team uses. While this technique has been almost overused or done poorly ever since its emergence with the Blair Witch Project, here it is used to help create atmosphere and tension and actually gives the audience a valid reason for why a cameraman is still rolling film while hordes of vicious undead are attacking at every corner. When they wander in the darkened attic, it is only the cameraman with the use of his nightvision filter that can see what is going on and helps to direct the protagonists through the room. Bits here and there such as the dialogue and interaction between the different tenants of the apartment complex and the grandmother in the background of an interview scene who kept sweeping so she could show up in the film more were both funny and unintentional and bring a spot of levity to the film early on. This film is one of the few I have ever recalled actually managing to scare me and that I’ve been watching horror films since as young as 4 should to attest to how well crafted the atmosphere is. It’s exactly how a zombie apocalypse would go down in real life and despite our bravado, we will go down fairly easily.

Medeiros Girl


The zombies (or infected, in this case) are fast, aggressive and will not go down when shot. Short of complete decapitation, and even that is up for debate if the comic tie-in is to be considered canon, they will continue to go after you mercilessly and tirelessly. The old woman and child who started it all are amongst the most frightening and even with a decapitation I’d doubt they would have stayed down for long. And while it may start off a tad slow with a very believable TV show beginning, it quickly ramps up the pace once the infected begin to show and stays at that pace until the breakneck ending when the creepy and disturbing Medeiros girl appears, skulking and sniffing about whilst swinging a hammer with her unnaturally long limbs.

[rec] 2

The sequel, [rec] 2, occurs at the same time as the first film and depicts what happens to the S.W.A.T. team sent in to control the situation. They’re led by a specialist flow in from the CDC who in reality is a priest from the Vatican. It seems the plague is religious in nature. A demon had possessed the Medeiros girl and it is that which is causing the plague as that is how it manifests in our world. Rather than making the movie begin to seem ridiculous now that a whole exorcism spin is added to the film, it actually works rather well in its favor. It certainly explains why the zombies are so aggressive and impossible to stop and gives the victims a chance to defend themselves with the help of prayer and rosary beads to contain or ward off zombies momentarily. This also helps to add a creepy flair to the infected when they begin to speak in demon voices and add some of the other tricks of their trade to the already tense atmosphere. there’s also a side-story involving a trio of punk kids that sneak into the apartment complex by way of the sewers, but they serve only to distract halfway through the film even if they do serve as a plot-point later on.

And then there’s [rec] 3.

From the [rec] tie-in comic

While initially utilizing the shaky camera characteristic of the first two films, it quickly discards this in favor of the typical 3rd person camera shots and shows what happened to the veterinarian that was bit by the girl’s dog from the first film who is in fact the catalyst for the first two films. The vet is attending the wedding of his nephew and begins to turn during the festivities of the wedding party. chaos quickly ensues and while not as terrifying as its predecessors, it certainly doesn’t take itself as seriously and ends up becoming a very enjoyable and tongue-in-cheek fest complete with knight in shining armor. The groom and bride are separated at the beginning of the film and much of the actions entails the two of them trying to reunite through the mansion filled with infected relatives. Uncle Raffa manages to evade much of the madness thanks to him being too busy sexing up a french girl in one of the adjoining rooms breaking the rule that if you’re caught having sex in a horror film you are sure to be killed off mid-coitus. They’re quickly joined by Sponge John (a non-copyright infringing knock-off hired to entertain the kids during the party) and the priest hired to perform the services. While they’re reunited at the end, they are quickly shot-down by the S.W.A.T. team that has arrived to quarantine the area after the bride is found to have been bitten during the last 10 minutes of the film. Complete with loving embrace, this film was surprisingly funny even though I initially had reservations about it when I saw the premise and how they had turned so completely away from the themes of the first film. And you know, it really worked in its favor. Otherwise it could have easily become almost a rehash of the first films and too often is this done with sequels and causes the franchise to become stale (I’m looking at you Saw and Paranormal Activities). That it went and did its own thing and successfully enough ended up making this film its own.

With that I’d strongly recommend at the least the first [rec] film if nothing else, but the sequels are enjoyable in their own right and well worth a view if you enjoyed the first one at all.

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Ip Man

I’ve seen many a kung fu film over the years thanks to my dad’s love of martial arts, in particular Jackie Chan films. And I do profess to a great appreciation for all the stunt work he does. But nothing, and I mean nothing compares to the superb choreography present in the film Ip Man.

Ip Man


Every fight is incredibly fast paced and beautiful to watch. Blink and you’ll miss several blows, kicks and blocks as fast as any fight I’ve seen in cinema and all perfectly timed and executed. The story itself is well paced and many of the characters are likable, even the bandit that shows up to challenge the martial arts masters of Fo Shan. While Ip Man himself is quiet and humble, he doesn’t need much for the story that is told. He doesn’t need characterization because the real man he was based on was equally quiet and humble in his later years. While the story is of course an exaggeration of the real life Japanese invasion of China, it can be forgiven in the way that the various characters try to persevere the hardships. Ip Man’s wife seems to come off initially as standoffish and a bit strict, but she stands by him in the end and shows that she really does care for him and her son greatly. It is this loyalty in the characters that gives them that little shine that endears them to the viewer.

Ip Man vs. The Northern Bandit


But the real meat and potatoes of the film is every fight scene that only get better and better as the film progresses. The fight between the bandit is fun and exciting, the fight between the ten black belts is mind-blowing, and the final fight between General Miura and Ip Man in front of the remnants of the city of Fo Shan is heart stopping. While I’ve not seen the sequel, considering that the same choreographer is involved I’ll be sure to check it out myself and may make a quick article on that. Nonetheless, be sure to see this ASAP as anyone would really enjoy watching this. And lack of curse words, blood and gore (except for the occasional wrenched limb, but nothing that would shock or scare) makes this perfect for sitting back to watch on any evening.

This fight lasted all of 2 minutes and every second was glorious.

Brick

I can’t tell if the acting was hammy or just that good. Having said that, most of the actors do a superb job of portraying this grand homage to the noir genre and the protagonist seemed to relish his role a bit too much. The fact that it looks like someone filmed it at home with a shoestring budget only serves to better portray the film. While I’m not a big fan of noir, It was still an enjoyable film with a twist worthy of such an ending. Clever bits here and there are sprinkled throughout, such as when Brendan is dashing away from a hired assassin, stops, turns and trips him into a metal support beam. But I would have to say that placing the film’s setting in a high school really adds to the humour. As I watched the scene where Brendan and the school’s principal are arguing, I was almost waiting for the principal to yell “turn in your badge!”, and I couldn’t resist peals of laughter as Brendan, Tug and The Pin sat in his kitchen and waited for Pin’s mother to serve cereal and juice to their, unbeknownst to her, hostage Brendan. It’s an enjoyable film to say the least in particular if you’re a fan of noir/neo-noir and well worth checking out.

A Serbian Film

This film was honestly one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s not the gore or shock that bothers me, I could care less about that, it’s how it was used. it was gratuitous for the sake of gratuity and THAT’S not even the worst of it. It’s not like this movie was Jackass 3d which proudly displays its stupidity. It’s not like this movie was Human Centipede 1 or 2 (both of which I adore for their ridiculousness) which at least showcased its gore with full aplomb and didn’t apologize for itself. It was trying to disgust you. No, this film seems almost like someone wanted to make a serious movie, with good color, and cinematography, with real intentions and then devolved into what could have been described as a Hostel sequel. If they had made this with the intention of “How far would a man go for money” in the world of porn films it could have had some actual and real potential. It could have been a deep and interesting look into the depraved world of the human psyche. Instead it showed us a man stumbling from one improbable scene to the next. It showed us someone so drugged up that he was willing to rape and fuck anything he came into contact with, no longer any questions asked.

and then he rapes his own son while his brother rapes his wife without him even knowing it until it is too late. And somehow this is supposed to be worse and more dramatic then an earlier scene where the protagonist Milo stumbles upon a different film by his director where a grown man helps a tied up woman give birth to her child only to immediately proceed to rape the newborn.

It’s just so unnecessary in this film. It really really is. There was absolutely no reason for that scene to be in this film. Either of them. But the most useless and worse scene I watched was not the worst because of it’s violence, gore, shock, depravity or any other number of adjectives. It was the very last 3 seconds of film. After realizing what he had done, Milo returns home to where his wife and child are huddling on the ground naked and bloody. Milo hugs them close to him before proceeding to cry in the shower. They get cleaned up as the mother sings a song to the boy and they all crawl into bed together and just hold each other close. Milo holds the stolen handgun to his wife’s back and as they look into each other’s eyes, the camera cuts to a shot of the outside of the house and you hear the trigger pulled as the bullet passes through the wife, into the child, and out through Milo’s back. It would have been a decent ending to an otherwise crummy film, but the fucking part where the porn film camera men show up in their living room out of nowhere and then the new director says “Come on. Start with the little one” as one of the other men proceeds to unzip his pants before it simply cuts to the credits was the worst. That was just straight up retarded. This movie couldn’t even leave a well enough ending alone without shoehorning in more useless and arbitrary ultra-violence for no discernible reason. This movie was just bad, plain and simple. It was a disappointment in the worst way. It couldn’t even deliver on the gore and ultra-violence is the worst of it.

Amelie

“Amelie refuses to get upset for a guy who’ll eat borscht all his life in a hat like a tea cozy.”

Amelie

Amelie is one of those movies that I should have seen a long time ago and somehow didn’t until now. I will admit I made the first mistake of judging it by its cover in that I had read that it was a romantic comedy in a way and that instantly put me off. I’m not fond of what I would call a “chick flick”. Nevertheless I was extremely pleased at what I saw, namely a quirky and hilarious movie reminiscent of a book being read aloud. The story is fun and interesting with little surprises here and there and the almost Douglas Adams’ way of introducing every character with their particular likes and dislikes. The imagery is so rich in sound and color especially when describing Amelie’s small pleasures in life, such as dipping your hands in grain or cracking a creme brulee. It evokes the very sensation in you.

Amelie and Painting

The various scenes throughout the movie vary wildly in theme and mood. While Amelie’s revenge on the callous grocer is classic Dahl’s Matilda almost to the point of villainy, the bar scene with the former tenant is poignant in a way that feels real in this movie. Everything slows down and focuses sharply on this moment. Every scene is presented as a full homage to its particular trope: the aforementioned bar scene with the wake-up call for the bar patron, the life-altering burst of revelation brought to a suicide victim, everything was done with full aplomb. This is a movie that runs at full pace nonstop but it still treats each and every scene with absolute care and delight. And while the more quirky scenes tend to be peppered throughout the film, it is the conversations with the neighbor that paints the restaurant scene every year where the film shines best. It is clear who the girl with the glass is, and in discussing her Amelie is establishing who she is to herself. She’s finally able to grow as a person.

But one of the best scenes filled with the most feeling is when you discover the secret of the neutral-faced man. It’s absolutely gratifying.

Old Boy

15 years.

15 years of being imprisoned in this room, within these walls with nothing more than the blaring of the television my only companion. My pleas and cries fall on deaf ears when my captors slide the food through the small window at the bottom of the door. Every day the same plate of dumplings. Every night I’m gassed to sleep. How much longer can I endure without a single word from anyone? Why am I even here? What could I have done to anyone that would warrant this, the loss of my life and loss of my humanity?

I woke up today after being gassed and suddenly I am outside. I’m on a rooftop and the sun is so glorious, so bright that I wrench myself to the ground in tears. And while I bask in this freedom for a fleeting moment, I will discover all too soon that all this is nothing more than a larger prison and my warden will soon let my crimes be known to me.

Oh Daesu

Oh Daesu

Here is a movie that is both captivating and entrancing all at once. You yearn for the answers to Daesu’s questions: who is his captor, and what could he have done that was so horrendous that his punishment would be that severe? The clues and bits of information are presented at a good pace and only serve for you to more eagerly await the answers that are in store. But it is the full revelation of his captor’s plans that is simply mind-blowing. The lengths to which he went to enact his revenge and the full implications are astounding. While the cinematography or music can seem a tad kitschy at times with several scenes being almost unnecessarily long (such as the sex scene or the very real octopus eating scene) which makes them unintentionally hilarious, it can add to the story and cause the viewer to really watch and appreciate the scene. The fight scene in particular was the best for having been longer and was done entirely in one take. Despite this, the strength of the movie lays entirely in the story and the indescribably good acting of the protagonist, played by Choi Min-sik, who’s portrayal of a man on the verge of insanity being thrust back into society is incredibly real feeling. It’s genuine. And the lengths to which he goes to to protect his love Mido is visceral and desperate and insane, but shows us all too well that even a monster, a creature lower than a beast, can still feel and care for others.

I won’t lie, I’m very fond of psychological thrillers and the portrayal of a human version of Harlow’s monkeys is absolutely fascinating. The hallucinations he sees, his lack of social skills, and the near breaking of his mind was just too interesting. This is a movie that fascinates, intrigues, makes us laughs and makes us squirm all at once. It’s hard to not want to miss a single beat of this film as anything could be a potential clue.

Jonah Hex v2 (Jimmy Palmiotti / Justin Gray)

“He was a hero to some, a villain to others… and wherever he rode people spoke his name in whispers. He had no friends, this Jonah Hex, but he did have two companions: one was death itself… the other, the acrid smell of gunsmoke.”

Such are the whispers told of Jonah Hex, the greatest and most ruthless bounty hunter that ever lived. A very paragon of the wild west. But Hex is no kind-hearted individual, though he is not without the occasional bout of empathy. Hex is merely indifferent to others, having been raised by an Apache tribe after his alcoholic and abusive father sold Jonah as a slave to the tribe where his face was burned with a hot-iron axe after a questionable duel with the chief’s son. He had seen the worst that humanity had to offer and accepted it as life. Hex drinks heavily, smokes often and sleeps with all manner of women though only a scant few would be able to lay claim to a portion of his heart. Talullah Black stands out as a female character done right: Tallulah went from having her family killed in front of her by a group of men hired to steal her family land and then later mutilated across her body by the same leader after she had turned to prostitution. She turns to Hex for help, who reluctantly teaches her gunfighting and other skills which enables her to track down the man who had wronged her so often and terribly and exact her revenge on him. She continued to live as a bounty hunter much like Hex and gained much notoriety of her own.

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex


The thing in particular that I enjoy most about Palmiotti and Gray’s run is that each story is self-contained. While Hex does have an overarching narrative due to his being a regular human and therefore ages, you don’t need to know anything about Hex in order to enjoy his stories. All that you need to know is he is a bounty hunter and a damn good one. Every story is a tale unto itself and could easily stand as a movie by its own right, and while there may be the occasional recurring character here and there, the strength of the stories lie in tales about the human spirit, both the good and the bad. There are cannibals and thieves, roving bands of outlaws and bloody Apaches as well as innocent and simple folk, people who want nothing more than an honest job and food for their family. Sometimes one morphs into the other. The artists do their best to convey the stories contained within and the artwork tends to be clean and expressive. Even the title is worded with craft and it’s not uncommon for the title to not appear until the final page.

Jonah Hex v3 Issue 07


A movie was released in 2010 and it is an abomination that has little to no respect for the source material. Unlike his comic origins, this version of Hex lived an idyllic life on a homestead with his wife and kids before his faced was burned and his family slaughtered by Turnbull. Also Hex gains the power to talk to the dead for no reason whatsoever. Tallulah goes from being a mutilated half-blind bounty hunter dressed in a black trench coat to some random chick that wears a corset at the best of times.
Tallulah Black

Tallulah Black


While Jonah Hex officially ended his title with issue 70 (and a special issue 71 being released for the Blackest Night DC event), the series was revived as All-Star Western when DC launched its reboot. Thus far, even with Palmiotti and Gray still at the helm, it is not nearly so entertaining as it has traded its stand-alone arcs with a longer over-arching narrative typical of long-running comics. Having the weak and helpless Amadeus Arkham tagging along throughout every issue feels more like a hindrance and an annoyance than anything else. Still, the clever writing shines through at times and well worth reading regardless.

Mr. Nobody

What would you choose if you could see the results of every one of the actions and decisions you ever made in your life? If you could watch time unfold before you if only you’d said something different to a certain someone or even as simple as opting for a cheaper pair of jeans instead of the pricier ones? What kind of life would you choose to live out? It is those greatest of pivotal moments in our lives that represents the proverbial crossroads of life that determine a great deal of our future. Whether it was to drop out of high school or whether you took the 10:30 bus or the 11:00 bus instead all of our decisions can impact our future.
Released in 2009 by Belgian director and writer Jaco Van Dormael, Mr. Nobody is a beautifully woven tale of a boy named Nemo (Jared Leto) who was missed by the Angels of Oblivion and therefore can see the results of his actions, can see the possible futures and must determine for himself the path his life will lead. While choosing who his parents will be upon birth was a major decision for Nemo, the most critical one is the one where he chooses to live with his father or his mother after their divorce. The train tracks at which he must make his decision serve as a strong visual metaphor and even colors are used symbolically throughout the film with many other recurring themes to help emphasize the results of his decisions. Having chosen a parent, this brings him to choose from amongst three-childhood friends as potential future wives: Anna dressed in passionate red, Elise dressed in melancholy blue, or Jeanne dressed in materialistic yellow. The colors do not represent the girls themselves, but their futures together. The story is narrated by an older Mr. Nemo Nobody, who is now 118 years-old in the year 2092 to an intrepid young journalist. He is the last mortal man on earth and as he tells his story, it weaves in and out through all the various potential timelines he might have lived through, including a universe where Nemo was never born. But knowledge does not always make things easier, as Nemo discovers “I don’t know the future, therefore I cannot make a decision. Now that I know the future I still cannot make one.”

Jeanne, Elyse, and Anna


The music to the film is rich and adds greatly to the experience; everything is purposefully and carefully placed in the film to help enhance the emotion conveyed or any other number of clues. Recurring themes and motifs such as the butterfly effect (often caused by maple leaves or literal butterflies), or the song Mr. Sandman that plays throughout the film sung by different groups each time helps to bring about the feeling that this is not all possible futures, but all futures that can only be lead by this one life. This is Nemo’s life we are seeing and no one else’s. The camera shots are equally as artistic and just as carefully done as everything else in the film and the actors chosen play their roles well. While the film is only 2 1/2 hours long, it does feel like a lifetime has passed. You view nearly every facet of Nemo’s life from since before he was conceived up to his death over a hundred years later. You watch him love and despair, be filled with hope and brought to his lowest.

It’s a very poignant film and really brings about a sense of almost dazzlement at the prospects of the future. If something so simple and tiny can affect us so greatly, where will our lives lead in 5, 10 years from now? If we could see all possible ends, and none of them satisfy us, what do we do then? Even if we believe that the only possible answers are yes or no, it is also possible that there is a third choice before us if only we can see what it is.

Watership Down

When people think of rabbits, they tend to think of soft, furry harmless things that hop about in meadows, eat grass and hand out chocolates on Easter. People who have pet rabbits can attest to their occasional bad attitudes and willingness to scratch you with their claws. People who have read or seen the film adaptation of Richard Adams’ Watership Down will tell you rabbits are so frickin’ badass it hurts. Watership Down is the story of a runt named Fiver and his older brother Hazel along with a handful of other rabbits and their journey across the lands of England to escape the destruction of their warren and begin life anew. But the story doesn’t just end there, especially not when a rival warren lead by the brutal and cruel dictator General Woundwort has anything to say to that. Richard Adams was inspired by a book The Private Life of the Rabbit by a British naturalist named Ronald Lockley, which details the various aspects of rabbit life and physiology and incorporated this into his own epic tale. While most of the characters in the book tend to not be too distinct, it is only because there are characters who are so memorable as to overshadow the others. Hazel soon becomes leader of the group and it is through him primarily that the story is told. He knows who to take the advice of others and is more than willing to try things that are new or unusual for rabbits in the hopes of using it to the greatest advantage for his warren. Fiver is more of a shamanic character with visions and ties to the spiritual word which is expressed mostly through premonition (it is his initial feelings of misgiving that cause him to warn Hazel about the imminent destruction of their home warren). Bigwig is more of a rough and burly sort of fellow, tough and serious on the outside but with the proverbial heart of gold and a strength and tenacity that is almost unparalleled among the fictional world. Blackberry is the most intelligent of the rabbits and it’s his grasp of physics and mechanics that enables the rabbits to pull off some of their major feats.

Watership Down

left to right: Pipkin, Bigwig, Dandelion, Hazel, Blackberry, and Fiver

The story begins with Fiver’s warning to Hazel and then fleeing the imminent destruction of their warren at the hands of men who bought the acre of land and want to develop it. Escaping only days before with a handful of other rabbits, they flee through some woods before coming upon a different warren. The rabbits here have a dark secret despite their well-fed and robust appearance. Despite this and a few other obstacles that they overcome throughout the journey, they’re able to find the land that Fiver had envisioned on the top of a hill in the downs known as Watership. They live peacefully and at ease until Hazel brings up the final hurdle they must overcome: in their haste to leave their old warren, they neglected to bring any does along with them. What follows is a stealth mission into the militaristic warren called Efrafra run by none other than General Woundwort. Rabbits here are overcrowded past capacity but none are allowed to leave their burrows except at designated feeding times. They’re scarred with marks that pertain to their unit (left-hind mark, or neck mark for example) and are as miserable a bunch of rabbits as anyone could lay eyes on. After a brilliant plan that almost didn’t succeed, the general mounts a full scale attack on their warren. I’ll not spoil the ending, but it’s every bit as clever a plan as their hero El-ahrairah would have devised.
Bigwig

Bigwig

The film tends to diverge only in that it omits certain small events and added a scene where a random background rabbit is eaten by a kestrel. But the gorgeous watercolor backgrounds and fantastic music make up for it in droves. Each rabbit character is drawn distinctly yet fairly realistically which adds to the characters. The semi-sequel Tales from Watership Down adds to some of the mythos and gives short stories concerning some of the descendants of the warren and other events after the conclusion of the original book. Disregard the animated series if you have any love for this property.